When children get out of school for the summer, many families turn their attention to their summer vacation plans. National Parks can provide enriching educational experiences as well as an opportunity to spend time as a family fishing, swimming, and cooking around the campfire. Some family members may choose to enjoy an adult beverage or two while on federal lands. Alternatively, a family member may leave the campsite for dinner and a drink or two in town. Regardless of where alcohol is consumed, if a person is intoxicated, they may find themselves facing serious federal charges if they engage in certain conduct while on federal property.
Federal DUI Charges
Under federal law, it is against the law for a driver to be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle if the driver either:
- has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams or more or alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or
- is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol that renders the driver unable to operate the car safely while on federal land. This includes land managed by the National Park Service.
Additionally, it is against the law to refuse to submit to testing if asked by park police or any other agency with authority to test. Just like in the state of Georgia, under the implied consent law, drivers give consent to a test by virtue of driving in a National Park.
Land Managed by the National Park Service
In Georgia, this includes (but is by no means limited to):
- The Appalachian Trail
- Arabia Mountain
- Augusta Canal
- Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
- Cumberland Island
- Fort Frederica
- Fort Pulaski
- Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
- Martin Luther King, Jr. National Park
- Ocmulgee National Monument
- The Trail of Tears.
Federal DUI Case Procedure
If the law enforcement arm of the National Park Service has reason to believe someone has violated the federal DUI laws, they are charged with a federal DUI – a federal crime. Federal crimes are heard in federal court. Consequently, one must hire an attorney licensed to practice in federal court if charged with a federal DUI.
Typically, federal DUI cases are heard by a federal magistrate, not a federal judge. Unlike in state court, in federal DUI cases, the defendant is not entitled to a jury trial. Rather, the trial will be to the magistrate. Like in state court, the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor, an Assistant United States Attorney, must bring forth witnesses to prove the case through testimony. This might include a complaining witness, who may have observed bad driving conduct. It may include police. It may include a scientist who analyzed the results of a blood, breath, or urine test.
Just as in state courts, defendants have the right to challenge the evidence the state has at a pretrial hearing. Where evidence was obtained illegally, the defendant has the right to have that evidence suppressed. At trial, defendants have the right to cross-examine the government's witnesses. They can also call witnesses of their own. Defendants may testify on their own behalf or choose to remain silent. When a defendant chooses to remain silent, no negative inference may be drawn from that choice. In other words, the magistrate is not allowed to presume a person chooses not to testify because they are guilty. The right to testify on one's own behalf or remain silent is one of the bedrock principles of constitutional law in this country.
However, unlike in state court, a federal magistrate may punish a defendant who pleads guilty less harshly than a defendant who takes their case to trial. As such, having an experienced federal DUI attorney on your side to discuss potential pros and cons of pleading guilty at any stage of the proceeding is essential.
Consequences of a Federal DUI
If someone is convicted of a federal DUI or if someone pleads guilty to a federal DUI charge, he or she faces up to six months in a federal facility, as well as a fine of up to $5,000. Further, he or she can be put on probation for up to five years. Courts typically order an alcohol use assessment. Where appropriate, treatment may be a condition of probation. Community service may also be ordered by the court.
In addition to criminal consequences, there may be other consequences to a federal DUI conviction. It could impact a person's security clearance, both in the government and in the private sector. Depending on the type of job a person has, a conviction for a federal crime could impact employment. Particularly if someone has a job which includes a driving component, a DUI conviction could result in loss of employment.
If You Are Charged with a DUI in a National Park...
Even if you were just sitting in the parking lot, depending on the extenuating circumstances, you may be charged with a DUI in a National Park. This is a federal offense that comes with serious consequences. As such, having a DUI advocate on your side is critical.
Our Roswell and Alpharetta, Georgia DUI attorneys know their way around DUI cases. Our firm focuses our practice exclusively on DUI cases. From challenging the stop of your car, to litigating the accuracy of the test results, to disputing the conclusions about actual physical control, we fight for you. We know your life, your liberty, and your future depend on fair treatment in the criminal justice system. We work tirelessly for our clients, striving for the best possible outcomes in each and every case. Contact us today for a free consultation. Let us put our experience to work for you.